Perhaps I haven’t been paying attention. But I was amazed to hear tonight on the news that Robert Thirsk, who’s scheduled to lift off tomorrow morning for six months on the International Space Station, will be flying a Soyuz from Baikonur into orbit.
There must not be many places on earth that more vividly demonstrate how the world has changed since the Cold War ended than Baikonur. For decades the name had a kind of dark magic about it: a closely-guarded Soviet state secret at first, then the dimly-imagined, rumour-shrouded site of the technological triumphs with which the Soviets rocked the West: Sputnik, Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova the first female cosmonaut. Kennedy launched the moon program because the scientists at Baikonur were making it hot for him. And tomorrow a Canadian will take off from its launch pad. The world really has moved on.